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Stellan Skarsgård was born in Gothenburg, Västra Götalands län, Sweden, to Gudrun (Larsson) and Jan Skarsgård. He became a star in his teens through the title role in the TV-series Bombi Bitt och jag (1968). Between the years 1972-88 he was employed at The Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, where he participated in "Vita rum" (1988), August Strindberg's "Ett drömspel" (1986) and "Mäster Olof" (1988). Simultaneously Skarsgård did outstanding film roles, notably in Den enfaldige mördaren (1982) by Hans Alfredson and with Fred Ward in American Playhouse: Noon Wine (1985). The fantastic performance gave him both a well-earned Guldbagge and Silver Berlin Bear. He portrayed the Skagen-painter Sören Kröyer in Hip hip hurra! (1987) and the Swedish ambassador Raoul Wallenberg in God afton, Herr Wallenberg (1990), both directed by Kjell Grede. Täcknamn Coq Rouge (1989) and Den demokratiske terroristen (1992) he played Jan Guillou's Swedish superagent Carl Hamilton. He also had the leading part in the Oscar nominated Oxen (1991) directed by the world-famous cinematographer Sven Nykvist. Skarsgård did his first (but small) role in an big American film with L'insoutenable légèreté de l'être (1988). The role of Captain Tupolev in À la poursuite d'Octobre Rouge (1990) was at supposed to be biggest part in a Hollywood-film, but unfortunately it was cut down. His breakthrough instead came with Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves (1996) opposite newcomer Emily Watson. After that Skarsgård got several supporting roles in American films, such as in My Son the Fanatic (1997), Gus Van Sant's Will Hunting (1997) and Steven Spielberg's Amistad (1997).

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Will Hunting - Lambeau - (1997) Nymphomaniac - Volume 1 - Seligman - (2013) Nymphomaniac - Volume 2 - Seligman - (2013) Mamma Mia! - Bill - (2008)